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Can Aromatherapy For Mental Health Help?

Our Sense of Smell and the Link to Our Emotions

Most people will answer the question “how do you smell” with the answer “with my nose”, and obviously, they would be technically correct. In scientific or medical terms, the explanation of how our faculties of smell really work can seem pretty irrelevant to the regular Joe, bogged down in medical-speak and complex physiological processes.

However, if you’re interested how smell is connected to your mental and emotional states, and how you can use that information to treat mental health and moods, let’s take a look at what happens when you smell something.

Through the Front or the Back of Your Nose

There are basically 2 ways that you smell anything. You either receive an aroma through the front of your nose (the most common way), or smell enters the back of your nose through your mouth (usually when chewing food). You have chemical receptors in your nose which detect smells and then send that information to your brain.

We have five basic senses: Sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. And if you want to break down each operating process, they are all extremely complex. But here is an interesting video of Anthony Carboni where he reports on some new research that looks at why the sense of smell is so much more powerful than your other senses.

And in the article below the video, we look at how our sense of smell is linked to our emotions, and why that is important to understand how aromatherapy can help in treating mental conditions.

Your brain goes to work studying that data, telling you whether what you are smelling is an orange, a wet puppy, smoke from a fire or if the smell is coming from a totally unrecognized source. This is one of the quickest chemical processing systems your body has, capable of almost instantly receiving data, processing and memorizing that data and turning it into something you can relate to.

How Your Sense of Smell Is Connected to Your Memory

As fast as this nose-brain-recognition system is, it also attaches emotion and memory to specific smells. Without getting too technical, there is a limbic system in your brain that houses your olfactory bulb. The word olfactory refers to your sense of smell, and your limbic system includes compartments which are related to how you behave, what mood you are in and your memories as well.

Since the smelling mechanism in your brain shares residency with the part of your brain dedicated to memory, mood and behavior, your sense of smell is intimately linked to both positive and negative memories.

This is why your most powerful memories, and your perception of how you felt during that event or on that occasion, are often linked to a particular smell.

If you are sensing an aroma for the first time, your brain registers your mood at that very instant. If you are happy, sad, confused, scared, or depressed when a particular aroma is initially received, odds are this same emotion will be remembered every time you encounter that smell again,
even decades later in many cases.

Aromatherapy Can Treat Mental Problems

This explains why essential oils and other aromatherapeutic measures can so effectively treat mental problems, disorders and beliefs. Whatever pleasant memories you have attached to a particular scent, that positive mood and happy mindset can be revisited simply by smelling the aroma again.

Aromatherapy isn’t just about pleasant smells that make you feel good or help you sleep. Aromatherapy uses essential oils for an array of physical, mental and emotional health purposes. For example, ylang ylang, chamomile, clary sage, or lavender might help you beat anxiety and insomnia, while rosemary and geranium might be useful when your mood needs uplifting.

So, basically this means that if you want to feel relax and calm you would want a different smell in your surroundings compared to when you want to be creative, focused and productive, and yet another smell if you are looking for a romantic mood with your partner…

Aromatherapy can be an easy and enjoyable experience to help us get in the moods that are appropriate for different segments throughout our day. If aromatherapy sounds like something you might want to try, keep in mind that there’s a lot of ground to cover regarding aromatherapy. But before you start your journey of discovery, here are 4 essential tips about Aromatherapy that Alicia Sparks shares with her audience on PsychCentral.com:

1. The oils used in aromatherapy aren’t safe for everyone (or every species, for that matter)

Essential oils may be pretty darn natural, but that doesn’t mean they’re always safe. They can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions and phototoxicity. Talk with your doctor and do your research to make sure engaging in aromatherapy isn’t going to have a negative impact on any illness you have or medication you’re currently taking.

2. Do some research before you shop for essential oils

When shopping for essential oils, look for bottles that are blue or brown. Clear bottles let light in, which tampers with the oil’s effectiveness. Too, don’t be duped by all the laundry detergents, fabric softeners and everyday room fresheners that boast aromatherapy benefits. All those perfumes and chemicals aren’t so green for your body or the planet. Your best bet for finding quality essential oils for aromatherapy is to shop at specialty stores.

3. Brush up on all the ways you can use aromatherapy

Inhalation is probably the most well-known method when it comes to using aromatherapy for mental and emotional health, but using essential oils in compresses, baths and massages are popular methods, too (and also used for other physical healing benefits).

4. Aromatherapy might not work for you

Just like traditional treatment options, aromatherapy seems to benefit some people while having no effect for others. Everyone from regular folk to science and medical professionals has met the practice and benefits of aromatherapy with both applause and skepticism, and you might just end up on the skeptical side. You may want to read up on some aromatherapy and essential oils research before you take the plunge.

If you want to learn more about Aromatherapy, you can read Alicia’s full article here:
Using Aromatherapy for Mental and Emotional Health

And two excellent websites to begin learning more about aromatherapy are the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the International Federation of Aromatherapies (IFA)

Share your aromatherapy experiences: If you have already tried aromatherapy for mental or emotional health purposes, please share your story and experiences. You can us the comment box below. Many people are looking for real life stories in regards to aromatherapy, and yours will be highly appreciated.

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